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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

482                The Loom of Language
Many well-informed people still doubt whether the social need for
a single universal second language will prove strong enough to over-
ride human laziness At first sight the plight of modern language
teaching in Great Britain and elsewhere lends some support to pessi-
mism Hitherto our schools have produced poor results After years of
travail the British public school product may have mastered enough
French to get in Paris what Fans is only too willing to sell without
French This need not make us hopeless Any society npe for adopt-
ing an Interlanguage will be faced with a new set of problems.
Pupils who now take French or German as school subjects rarely have
a clear-cut idea of the purpose for which they aie learning them, and
more rarely still, the chance of using what knowledge they acquire
The future is likely to provide incentives and opportunities hitherto
unknown Fantastic delays,, misunderstandings and waste due to the
absence of a single common language for international co-operation
will impress even those who are not knowingly affected by it at present
A hundred years ago, Europe witnessed perhaps less than a dozen
international congresses in the course of a whole decade Delegates
were invariably drawn from the upper class So communication was
easy enough Deliberations were in French When international con-
gresses became more numerous, they assumed a more gaudy linguistic
character Consequently procedure had often to be conducted in two
or more "official" languages One could choose delegates who were able
to compete with the polyglot attendant of an international sleeping-car,
but the delegate with the best linguistic equipment would rarely be
one with the best understanding of relevant issues This obstacle to
international communication becomes more formidable as time goes
on People of new strata and more diverse speech habits discover
community of interest, and no single language enjoys the prestige of
French during the eighteenth century
In short, the prospects for language planning depend on the extent
to which the impulse to international co-operation keeps in step with
the new potential of prosperity for all Socialist planning, that is
planning for the common needs of peoples belonging to different
nations or cultural units, will bring about incessant contact between
medical officfers of health, town-planning experts, electrical engineers,
social statisticians, trade-union representatives Increased leisure
combined with improved travelling facilities will give to a large
floating section of the population opportunities to establish new social
contacts through the medium of an Interlanguage, and its adoption